Rishi Sunak has hit out at the “forces that be” backing Tory leadership rival Liz Truss, as he positioned himself as the underdog in the race to replace Boris Johnson.
As both campaigns traded barbs on Saturday, Ms Truss refused to engage with Mr Sunak’s suggestion he was the “underdog” as she said she was “not taking anything for granted”.
The Foreign Secretary was in Kent where she highlighted her plans for a “red tape bonfire” of EU regulations, while Mr Sunak used a speech in Grantham, the birthplace of Margaret Thatcher, to kick-start his campaign as he bids to win over Tory members.
Ms Truss, tipped as the favoured candidate among grassroots voters and backed by Johnson loyalists, faced attacks from the former chancellor over her planned tax cuts as he sought to convince party members that he was the true Thatcherite in the contest.
Mr Sunak also took aim at his rival’s Brexit credentials in his speech on Saturday morning, which was heavy on warnings about the dangers of inflation as he promised to put the UK on a “crisis footing” if he enters No 10.
Speaking to a largely friendly crowd, he called himself the “underdog”, but stopped short of naming Ms Truss personally.
He told the crowd: “The forces that be want this to be a coronation for the other candidate. But I think members want a choice and they are prepared to listen.”
Pressed by reporters to be more specific, he said he was talking “generically”.
But several people have pointed to the fact that two leading right-wing newspapers have been extremely vocal in their support of Truss.
On Saturday, the Daily Express ran yet more favourable coverage of the Foreign Secretary.
Questions have also been raised over the Dail Mail’s shameless support of Truss.
Former Sun editor David Yelland has posed a raft of complementary coverage featured in the newspaper.
While Iain Dale also called the publication out on his show this week.
He said: “I’ve never really bought into this idea that the establishment can stitch things up, but boy have they stitched things up here.”
Watch the clip in full below: